Home Selling in Boston>Question Details

Tom Smith, Other/Just Looking in Boston, MA

Square Footage Question

Asked by Tom Smith, Boston, MA Thu May 29, 2008

When I bought my condo a couple of years ago, the seller's broker represented the square footage as" X square feet (as measured by owner)" or words to those effect. This square footage is about 25% greater than the square footage listed in the assessor's database for my unit. I measured it myself (the interior dimensions, including hallways, but not including closets) and came up with the same number that the seller's broker reported. Now that I am contemplating selling in the next few years I wonder if I will run into any problems if I represent/market my property in the same way it was represented to me. Can I market/list my unit having the higher sq footage? Should I get the assessor to re-measure it? Is there something I don't know about measuring sq footage that would account for a 25% difference? It's a basic residential condo unit, and all the space is heated/lived-in (i.e., no garage or basement). Did the selling broker act unethically/illegally? Thanks for the help!

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With regard to square footage, measure it yourself or better yet have the selling agent measure with you there watching and recording. For tax purposes, municipalities only count livable, heated space. Closets and hallways are included, but garages, attics, unfinished bonus rooms, and sun porches aren't. Nor, usually, are basements—though some localities include walk-out basements that are finished to the standard of the rest of the house.Because tax records aren't infallible, listing agents are supposed to measure the property themselves. But many just copy the information from tax records, and rely on boilerplate language in listing sheets and contracts that the "information is reliable but not guaranteed." Some also include space that a tax appraiser wouldn't, like a lavishly finished below-ground basement, and then use language that protects them from claims of deception, like "square footage on three levels." So before deciding how to proceed it's important to find out if the agent measured the house, what was measured and how it was done.
Web Reference: http://www.clovelake.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 17, 2011
There are a couple of key issues that you need to know.
First, the county Assessor's office uses data that comes from another source. In most cases the local department of Building and Safety. The permit on file contains the square footage as noted by the builder.
Second, the Assessor's office can also opt to use a different third party, such as Data Quick. Data Quick buys the data from another party, a company that also gathers the data from primary sources.
Third, the data provided by the Assessor's office is only as good as the raw data, and those that input it. Many assessors office now use Geo-coding for lot size, purchasing the data from sources that help create maps and GPS mapping systems.

To sum up, is is common to have descrepancies in lot size the building living area. In most real estate literature or website the Realtor cites the source of the data. In most risk management seminars Realtors are urged to have buyers verify with a competent third party the lot size or living area if they have a concern.

You should know that technically the living square area is measured on the OUTSIDE of the property, so the living area measured is almost always less when measured from the inside. Also, that area excludes garage and unfinished basement space.

So far as you condo goes, I suggest contacting the Dept. of Building and Safety and ask them for copies of the building permits. That should give you a good start. I would not automatically suspect fraudulent actvitity by a Realtor.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
Keith Sorem, Real Estate Pro in Glendale, CA
Hi Tom,
When was the condominium established? More than likely the public records are based on the unit floor plan that should have been attached to the first deed out. Sometimes changes are made that are not on record and won't be public until a physical assessment is done. If you want to determine the difference between the public record and your measurments you should find the original floor plan at your local registry of deeds.(This could be done on line depending on the age of the condo). If I can be of help you can contact me and I will do what I can to assist you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
Have a realtor or appraiser measure it. The assessor is often time inacurate as stated below. The more square footage the better off you are. It is difficult to measure yourself, the closets would be included, and we measure using the exterior dimensions, not the interior.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
Hi Tom,

There isn’t anything unethical with the way it was represented when you bought it. If they had represented that the square footage source was the public record or the assessor’s card, than that would pose a problem. If you bring the town in to re-measure, you may run into some problems with your neighbors if you decide to stay for any reason. A 25% difference is significant and may prompt an increase in taxes for your unit as well as others. In your own listing, just be sure to represent your source as measured as the seller did that you bought from.

Best of Luck!

0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
Assessments are often inaccurate, You have measured, you can represent that fact and feel good about it. Nothing your broker did was illegal, nor will you be doing anything illegal.. but I'm not a lawyer.
Web Reference: http://www.provestre.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
Hi Tom,

Actually, you would prefer to have more than less sqft. I would not suggest going to the assessors dept, because then you would be charged more taxes, ultimately, because you have more real estate.

I would talk to your Realtor, a professional and experienced agent in your area. She will re-measure and put the higher sqft on the listing sheet, web sites... Some Realtors will do a floor plan too.

This can be easily explained to a new buyer and they will not be disappointed by the discrepancy either.

Good luck.
Web Reference: http://www.KPsells.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
If you have the assessor remeasure, your taxes will go up. You can hire an appraiser to measure it and go off of that.
Web Reference: http://getprequalified.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
You could hire an architect to do it (they'll send one of their lowbies to do it so don't pay too much), and disclose it as square footage as per architects measurements....
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 29, 2008
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